Photo Information

Captain Alexander Vanston, a civil affairs officer with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, checks the grid coordinates of the Jow Khori flood defense wall project that the civil affairs team in Sangin is looking to begin, Jan. 17. This project is designed to help combat the annual flooding that is caused by the rainfall in the area.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Fasci

Marines push for better relationships with Afghans

28 Jan 2011 | Lance Cpl. Jeremy Fasci

Members of the civil affairs group attached to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment performed a site survey on a flood defense wall project, one of the many projects planned to help build the infrastructure of Sangin and gain the trust of the people Jan. 17.

This project, like many others, is designed to help the people of Sangin grow as the security posture in the region is stabilized.

“We went out to the Jow Khori flood defense wall project, which is going to provide protection against the annual rains and flooding that occur here in Sangin,” said Lt. Col. Thomas West, a civil affairs officer with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

In the areas surrounding Sangin the need for increased civil affairs operations was evident as the Marines from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, conducted an extensive amount of kinetic operations driving the Taliban out of its stronghold. With this increased need, coalition forces have ramped up the number of civil affairs teams in the area forming what is called a civil military operations center.

“It is a little bit different, normally with a single battalion you have one single civil affairs team but with all the efforts and operations that are going on in Sangin, especially with the kinetic expansion that 3/5 was able to do, we needed to back fill that with an increased civil affairs capacity,” said West, 43 from Anaheim Hills, Calif. “That brought about the CMOC, as well as the additional civil affairs teams that are up here.”

As the CMOC developed over the last two months in Sangin, the ability to reach out to the community has been noticed. Also, the assets of the group allows them to implement a greater amount of projects.

The difficulty of finding contractors is always prevalent in Afghanistan and even more so in an area that is as kinetic as Sangin and its surrounding areas.

“It’s hard to find new contractors, but we do have some really good relationships with a few contractors that are able to operate,” said West. “Fortunately, we have been working with a good district stabilization team and they really have some good connections that they have let us use, so it’s been a really good situation with contractors.”

The most difficult thing about performing civil affairs projects is the inability to reach certain remote areas in Sangin.

“Some these projects are in areas that are currently inaccessible so as the negotiations go and we are able to get into those locations we will start those projects,” said West. “Working here with the British stabilization team, with the Marines and with the Afghans out here has created a foundation for good things to come.”